How to Brush Your Teeth With Braces

Jump to Section

The International Journal of Dental Clinics is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links.

Braces can do wonders not just to your teeth, but more importantly, to your confidence. Whether you are wearing it for six months or two years, the end result will be worth it. But while you are waiting for the treatment to end, you need to be extra diligent in cleaning and taking care of your teeth while wearing braces. Brushing your teeth is crucial, but the challenge with wearing braces is that it requires a different kind of cleaning and brushing. So how do you exactly brush your teeth with braces? Here’s everything you need to know.

Braces make brushing difficult. Food particles can easily get trapped in the tiny spaces, while plaque can easily build-up to the brackets and teeth. Thus, the cleaning and care mostly revolve around the teeth and the brackets that sit on them. But how do you do it? How often?

The American Dental Association (ADA) says the number of times a person should clean and brush each day differs from one orthodontist to the next. The general rule however is to brush after every meal.

Understanding the challenge

Plaque is a biofilm made up of saliva and bacteria. It is continually formed in your mouth and sticks to your teeth. Bacteria in plaque buildup produce acid whenever you eat or drink. This acid is too harsh for your teeth; it can destroy the enamel of your teeth which can lead to cavities and tooth decay, and even gingivitis (gum disease). While thorough brushing can remove plaque, anything you miss will turn into tartar, a hard calcified yellow material that sticks and stains your teeth. This is formed when bacteria mixes with plaque mixes with food particles. Tartar can only be removed by dental professionals, usually using an ultrasonic device with a small nozzle. Unfortunately, wearing braces makes it harder to thoroughly remove all plaque and trapped food particles, since components of braces provide lots of places and spaces for them to hide. But that doesn’t mean you should give up!

This is why knowing how to brush your teeth with braces is extremely important.

How to brush teeth with braces: The step-by-step guide

Before you dig deeper, it is important to accept the fact that brushing with braces is entirely different than your usual brushing routine. Be prepared to spend at least three times as long as your regular oral care while you are wearing braces. Don’t worry though; it’s going to be worth your time.

Remember, prevention is better than cure. Thus, if you want your teeth to be in good condition while it’s being straightened, you need to follow these steps by the dot.

Make it a routine

It is easy to miss plaque buildup when you are wearing braces. Thus, to minimize the risk of their damage, you have to make it a habit to brush your teeth after every meal. As a matter of fact, most people value their beautiful teeth brush even after eating snacks too.

Ready your tools

It is a lot easier to do the routine when you have everything you need at arm’s reach. Again, brushing teeth with braces is different than teeth without braces. So here is a list of everything you need to get:

• A mirror

• A cup

• Manual or electric toothbrush

• Nonabrasive toothpaste

• Floss and floss threader (or water flosser)

• Proxabrushes (interdental brushes or go-between brushes)

• Mouthwash

Start with a swish

Once you have everything you need, fill the cup with water and rinse your mouth thoroughly. This will remove loose food particles and debris, while water will help activate the toothpaste.

Next, remove any bands, elastics, or removable orthodontic pieces on your braces. Put them in a safe place, preferably a clean container.

Time to brush

Rinse your toothbrush and top it with non-abrasive fluoride toothpaste. You don’t need a lot of toothpaste. Most people tend to think they need to cover the entire brush surface, as advertised on the TV. But it’s actually unnecessary. A pea-sized amount of toothpaste is more than enough.

Start at the front side of your teeth, the side that is seen when you smile. Bite your teeth together and start on the outside of your bottom set of teeth. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and gently brush your teeth back and forth along the gum line. Then, shift the angle of the toothbrush to brush the top of the brackets of your braces. Next, reposition to toothbrush at an upward angle to brush under the brackets and wires. This will dislodge any trapped food particles stuck on the brackets. Be gentle in brushing around the braces; take your time to clean each tooth.

Next, move to the outside of your top teeth and do the same thing. Spend at least 30 seconds on each bracket.

Next, open your mouth and brush the biting surface of your teeth. Make sure you brush all the way back to the molars. Spit if needed.

Brush in a circular motion and make sure you move your toothbrush all the way through the front and backside.

Make sure to brush the inner side of your teeth too in up and down and circular motion. When you are wearing braces, the inner sides of your teeth are usually the easiest to clean, but many neglects it since it’s rarely seen.

Use the interdental brush over the top of your brackets for a more thorough cleaning. If your brackets have holes, use the interdental brush to each hole and wiggle out trapped food particles and debris.

Lastly, brush and massage your inner cheeks, tongue, and gums. Stick your tongue out and breathe normally, otherwise, you will start gagging.

Take your time when brushing. Experts say you should spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth, but with braces, that will surely take more, especially if you are new to the routine.

If you are having difficulty reaching some surfaces and cleaning brackets and wires of your braces, you can use proxabrush after your regular brushing. It is small, flexible, and can help you clean the smallest of spaces in your braces and teeth.

Flossing with braces

Flossing with braces can be quite challenging at first. But once you get the hang out of it with practice, you will find it easy. After all, it’s quite an important part of the oral hygiene routine. If you struggle with flossing, you can use Plackers, they are like floss on a stick. They are easier and faster to use than regular floss.

Always be gentle when flossing, you can use a floss threader to maneuver your floss around the brackets and wires of braces easily. You can also use a water flosser to reach and clean the tightest spots between your teeth. A water flosser is an electronic water jet device ideal for people with braces. It can clean and remove plaques even in the tightest of spaces.

Dentists recommend flossing at least once a day. Choose waxed floss over unwaxed, the latter can get caught and shred in the braces. Do not snap the floss when it gets trapped in the braces. Move it up and down slowly and gently. Thread through the wires and braces carefully.

For braces with finishing wires, it can be extremely difficult to get the floss underneath or over the double set of wires. So simply push down the floss into the tooth space. If you don’t have finishing wires, then it is best to thread the floss underneath or over the wires, since that’s the most effective way of cleaning your teeth.

Rinse again

Rinse your mouth with a mouthwash after flossing. Water may rinse away the fluoride from the toothpaste which is needed to protect and strengthen your teeth. You can negate this by using fluoride mouthwash and help lower the risk or even avoid gingivitis.

Swish the mouthwash inside your mouth for at least 30 seconds. Then, spit it out.

Check your handiwork

Before you say you are done, check your work in the mirror. This should only take a few seconds, but it can make a huge difference on how you clean and maintain both your teeth and your braces. Replace elastics, bands, or removable orthodontic appliances.

More tips on how to take care of your teeth while wearing braces

Replace your toothbrush regularly

Replace your toothbrush every two to three months. The toothbrush becomes worn down each time you use it. The bristles will fray, making it ineffective for a thorough cleaning.

If you use an interdental toothbrush, you will need to replace the head of that brush as well. You can easily find these at some stores. It would be best to carry one with you anywhere you go.

Watch what you eat

Again, prevention is better than cure. While you can always clean your braces and teeth after eating, it is best to avoid food that may damage your braces and teeth.

Avoid food that gets easily trapped between the brackets and spaces between your teeth. Hard food such as apples, bagels, caramels, corn on the cob, popcorn, nuts, etc., are difficult to swallow and may easily get trapped in your braces.

Also, avoid chewing gum and ice cubes.

More importantly, cut back your sugar intake. Sweet and sugary food and beverages contain sugar, which bacteria in your mouth loves. This can cause plaque which can lead to tooth decay and gingivitis.

Choose food rich in fiber, protein, and fats instead. These nutrients can help you avoid gingivitis.

Gargle with saltwater

Gargling with warm saltwater can do wonders for your teeth and gums, especially if you are experiencing soreness due to the braces. Saltwater can help promote healing.

Gargle twice daily, one in the morning and another one in the evening.

Visit your dentist for checkups and professional cleaning

Seeing your dentist or orthodontist for your regular checkups and adjustments is part of the braces treatment plan. Your dentist can fix broken pieces, address any irregularities in your teeth, and answer questions related to oral care.

While on it, it would be best to have your teeth and braces professionally cleaned. This actually should be an annual thing, even without the braces. However, when you have an appointment for readjustments and tightening of your braces, chances are your dentist will also suggest professional teeth cleaning (hydro-cleaning) for your teeth.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.